Journey Into Night!
- By Rebekah Rejniak
- Photos Courtesy of Geffen Playhouse
Last June, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Jeanie Hackett (Love, Noel, Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune) would direct Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Da Vinci Code) and Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle, Pleasantville) in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, mirroring the nation’s current need for realism. Call it serendipity, or call it a nationwide cry for help, but don’t call it a coincidence that Long Day’s Journey Into Night is being reprised in Los Angeles for the first time in almost a decade. This succeeds a Tony Award-nominated run in New York starring Jessica Lange, Michael Shannon, Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher Jr.
The L.A. star-studded revival of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece lands naturally at The Geffen Playhouse. The whimsical exterior alone can make the tepid theatregoer want to purchase a subscription pass. Expect not only gritty performances from the two powerhouses Molina and Kaczmarek, but a history of reveries shared (the two performed together this past summer at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the heartwrenching And No More Shall We Part). Also, bring Kleenex.
Long Day’s Journey takes place within a boozy 12-hour period, on a steamy August day in 1912. The Tyrone’s run-down Connecticut beach home hosts a morphine addict, a chronically ill son, a former stage actor, and a libertine stagehand whose secret’s come unraveled for all to see. These four main characters are the semi-autobiographical representations of O’Neill’s family. A husband speaks of his wife’s morphine addiction as, “a curse she can’t escape” while he has yet to acknowledge his guilt in the matter. Meanwhile he, along with his two sons, belligerently swill hard liquor deep into the night. This begs the audience to ask the question, “whose fault is it anyway”? The two medical emergencies paint the cornerstone that builds the story. But it is the natural cadence that occurs when living with an addict that becomes a normality. The repetitive nature that circles the characters, and seeps into their arguments, breaths true life into the script. That is the foundation and beauty of the dialogue.
The play is a poignant take on family secrets, controversy, tension, and addiction. It remains relevant considering O’Neill wrote the play in the 1940s with the provision that it would never be performed. It is regarded as a raw and personal depiction of O’Neill’s own family, hence his original desire for secrecy.
With realism having its moment and award season upon us, we see how far-reaching Eugene O’ Neill’s influence has been with indie darling Manchester by the Sea’s creators Matt Damon and John Krasinski having cited O’Neill’s work as influential. Two other films currently dominate the Box Office – Moonlight and La La Land, which also depict variants of realism and escapism. It’s obvious that audiences across America are craving something new yet relatable and Long Days Journey Into Night offers just that. In a time when news reporting feels more Twilight Zone than Matlock, we desperately need it. This Pulitzer Prize-winning play requires complete surrender from the actor while simultaneously conjuring a natural found tenacity from within. With a wordsmith like O’Neill to pull from, the payout for both actor and audience alike is harmonious. One thing is certain, seeing Molina and Kaczmarek work with first-rate material such as this, is not to be missed.
The cast includes Stephen Louis Grush (Nightlights, Return to Sender), Colin Woodell (Masters of Sex, Designated Survivor), and Angela Goethals (Home Alone, Jerry Maguire). The show is now in previews at the Geffen Playhouse, with opening night set for February 8th. The production runs until March 18th.
To purchase tickets for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and more information about the Geffen Playhouse, click here.